Friday, January 30, 2009

Snakes 'n' Ladders

This is becoming much like the old game of "Snakes n Ladders" in that each time I think that I'm going to win I'm sent back to the beginning in one slithering slide!

Make a mistake or drop a stitch in this pattern and there is not much hope in saving it. When a heroic rescue is attempted the situation just goes from bad to worse! You're dealing with twisted knit stitches that occasionally change to purls (that aren't twisted) as they go under a cable and change direction. If a stitch is on the run it can get very confusing faster than you can curse.

Note the lack of a needle in this picture? That's because it is about to be ripped back all the way to that plain toe section. NEXT time I'm putting in a life line. I would just scrap the whole project if I didn't want this particular pair of socks so bad.

How fitting that Yarn Harlot's entry for today on the "Never Not Knitting", Page a Day calendar is about lifelines. Quote: "you'll probably never need it if you do it, and regret it very deeply if you don't".


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In-House Handyman

Thanks goodness for the online community of Ravelry, the wonderful advice freely given by members there, and for a handy live-in repairman.

I didn't get far in trying out my new-to-me Singer 360K when it became evident that I had a problem. Neither carriage was gliding smoothly. Both were hard to get moving. The regular carriage would at least operate, but it resisted like crazy. The lace carriage was even more stubborn, getting completely stuck the minute it reached the needles.

The helpful folk in Ravlery's machine knitting group did all they could to help me diagnose the problem and it took a member from Australia to finally find the cause. She advised that these "drums".....

...were likely seized up from old lubricant and lack of use. She kindly wrote out a long post on exactly how to take apart the carriage, clean it, and get it back in use. It was a long post full of scary directions for someone as mechanically challenged as myself. Fortunately for me, my handy husband is not afraid of things like this:

He had it expertly taken apart, cleaned and back working again in short order. He even went on to repair the lace carriage as well.

Today I put all his hard work to good use making sure that those carriages were indeed working perfectly. I have this beaded lace swatch to prove it.

I think my first actual project might end up being a handspun, beaded lace scarf, perhaps with deep hand knit lace borders. I have some more experimenting to do first. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Button Jar Saves The Day

A well stocked button jar is a household treasure. Some of the oddest buttons, if held onto long enough, eventually find the perfect placement.

These little "flower power" type buttons came in a multicoloured package originally purchased to finish off a colourful knitted baby romper. These strange purple ones with lime green centres didn't go well with the yarn in that project, so they were added to the button jar that has been simmering away in my home since the day I was married. My button jar got it's initial start with a donation from my mother's jar, which in turn, no doubt had it's beginnings in her mother's jar.

The right button, isn't always there, but that jar is the best place to start looking. Late last night I hit pay dirt when I went digging for just the right buttons to finish off a spur of the moment project.

This is a modified version of the "Tea Mitten" by Elizabeth Kleven who blogs at "Knits Vehemently". The pattern is perfect just as it is, I only had to modify it to work with my handspun yarn which was thicker than the suggested DK weight.

I love this little tea cozy. It fits snugly yet allows you to lift the lid without removing the cozy. On my project page on Ravelry I've named it "Mrs. Potts' Sweater", after the Disney Character from Beauty and the Beast.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Think Again!

If you've ever thought that machine knitting is easy, or somehow "cheating", think again! It is neither! It's very difficult, quite a learning curve to it. It can be rip-your-hair-out frustrating. For some reason though I'm drawn to the challenge of it.

I've had this Singer 360K knitting machine (with ribber and lace carriage) for a number of years now but I've never before had the room to set it up. I finally have access to a small, spare bedroom and I set the machine up tonight and did a bit of maintenance.

I wiped it down and oiled it though it was pretty clean. I don't think the previous owner used it much. It clearly hadn't been touched in decades.

Look at these sponge bars! They are both shown from the side. The one on the left is new and the squished flat, yellowed and crumbling one on the right is the old one. Thanks to the ongoing discussions about this in the machine knitting forum on Ravelry, I knew to check and change the sponge bar. An old deteriorating sponge bar is the first thing to check when a machine has not been used for a while and is not knitting correctly.

With the maintenance taken care of I set to work attempting to knit.....following the instruction book line by line. The green and blue-grey swatch is the first thing off the machine. Lots of mistakes, stitches dropping off the ends, too tight tension, poor yarn choice and so on.

This second swatch was much nicer. It's done in a much finer yarn and the tension was set up better. I even managed to try out increasing and decreasing singly and with multiple stitches. I also tried a "tappet tool" cast off, though not very successfully. I kept dropping stitches and those tiny things are near impossible to grab when they decide to run!

I can forsee lots of frustration and gnashing of teeth in my future, but hopefully the end result will be well worth the time, effort and tears put into learning this new-to-me craft. Machine knitting is not handknitting, but it is neither easy nor "cheating". I consider a knitting machine to be just one more tool in my fibre crafts obsession, like a loom is a tool for weaving.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sock Obsessed

I love wearing handknit socks. I usually don't love making them. But then again, I usually knit plain socks and find them so boring to knit that they end up being reserved for meetings, waiting rooms, and car trips.

The "Firestarter" pattern may have changed all that. I loved knitting them (after I worked my way through some of the pattern quirks). I love wearing them too. Chalk this project up as a raging success!

I had so much fun with those ones that I just had to make another challenging pair right away. Meet my newest project, "La Digitessa" in red Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn.

Sixteen pages and numerous charts written for Bavarian travelling stitches in symbols that I've never before seen. Should be interesting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fitting Against the Odds

I'm usually very good about making and following gauge swatches. It lessens the chance of future wailing and gnashing of teeth. For socks though, I never bother. My norm is to start toe-up and keep increasing until the toe is "wide enough" to fit my foot. Of course most of the time I am knitting a basic, generic sock where the final number of stitches on the needle is not important.

Then in waltzes a sock pattern that specifies a set number of stitches you must work with (at least the first time through until you can make an educated guess about where you can and can't make adjustments). Did I swatch? No. I picked up my favourite sock knitting circular needles, and cast on for my standard toe, did the usual increases and stopped when I had the right number for the pattern. It worked!

Luck was with me and the sock fits perfectly, despite the fact that when measuring gauge after the fact, I found out I'm working a little tighter than the pattern suggests. I had to fudge a bit with the length to account for the tighter gauge and my foot being a little longer than the stated size 7-8. I added one more repeat of the little cable dealie running down the foot, but I kind of like the look of it better that way anyway.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Box of Batts

I've had my drum carder out and over the period of several days I carded up a huge box full of blended batts. (To give you an idea of the size of that box, my big drum carder fits in there with room to spare!) These batts are primarily made of a light blue superwash mill end, but I've added a sizable chunk of a darker, commercially dyed merino top, and a smaller handful of two different colours of hand dyed mohair to each batt. I didn't weigh and measure, but each batt contains approximately the same blend.


It has resulted in a blend that has a little more colour interest than the original, flat, boring blue was. It's not so noticeable in the pictures as it is close-up and when I'm working on it. The blend should have a little added strength and sheen courtesy of the mohair in the blend as well.


I'm on my second bobbin of singles and I'm still not sure where I'm going with this blend. Perhaps a 2 ply lace shawl. More likely a 3 ply to be used for a vest or cardigan depending on the finished yardage.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whatcha Doin'?

I've been rather neglectful of the blog lately. I've been busy knitting but haven't felt much like blogging about it.

The Master Knitter program is on a back burner while I do a few other things. I've really lost my drive with that. Mostly I'm just procrastinating I guess, avoiding the inevitable reports that I despise so much.

I'm working my way, toe-up, through a pair of nearly complete socks, but progress on that is slow because its my meeting project and I'm content to leave it as such for now.

I've also picked up the handspun cabled hoodie again. It's the one I stopped knitting because it looked like I would run out of yarn. I've decided to continue, perhaps adapting the pattern to have a collar instead.

I've had my drum carder out making up a big batch of a merino/mohair/viscose blend in a light denim blue. The spinning of that has begun. It will either be a laceweight 2 ply or a DK - sportweight 3 ply. I haven't decided yet.....leaning toward the 3 ply.

And new to the knitting basket, a "Firestarter" sock. I find the pattern instructions confusing (a complaint voiced by many), but so far, once I figured out what I should be doing, the knitting has been easy.

Sandnes Garn Sisu on 2.5 mm needles.

The photo looks odd because it is a side view of the foot. All the detail runs up the sides on this design.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Another Meret

Very seldom do I knit the same thing twice, let alone three times, but....

It took three times for me to get a Meret Beret of my own. The first two were given away as Christmas gifts. The first was for my daughter. The second was for my son's girlfriend. Luckily this pattern is a fun and easy knit.

Now finally, a red one, done in Cascade 220, and I get to keep it.